tv Book TV After Words CSPAN December 18, 2011 12:00pm-1:00pm EST
walker, who she condition that her late has his death to call in the shed best-selling book, why should wait men have all the fun? and john maile happened to be the publisher. so when blair told the lowest your web presence of a proposal, they got very interested read in the african-american he came from nothing to will the successful was louis. that is hard to come about. eddie brown is the of the of this book, investing and licenses coming up next book tv presents after words, an hour-long program or we invite
guests toasted to the authors. this week neil ferguson and his latest book. and it the when seacoasts in this arena use those instances in can soon the world. now the rest of the world of adopting these concepts and reducing western domination. mr. ferguson's this is the star power and decline of several western empires with author and culture critic susan jacoby. >> well, as it happens i have been rereading the fall of the roman empire at the same time have been reading your book. ..
>> host: do you see what'shappe? by that i mean the whole toxic boss of news that is brought your lives everyday in western europe, the united states. united states. do you see this is relatively sudden, or as the result of factors that go back at least as far as the second world war? >> guest: far be it from me to disagree with edward gibbon, probably the greatest historian of all time. but one of the points i wanted to make in "civilization" was gibbon is one of those historians who had encouraged us to think of historical processes as quite gradual and slow acting. he covers about them in history.
brohm seems to take his thousand years or so in decline a fall. i've suppose the problem with that approach a circle change is it encourages a certain complacency in us, a sense that while we have problems but they will probably play out over the decades and possibly even centuries. so why worry? what i try to argue in "civilization" is it's not actually quite like gibbon said, to contemporaries the decline and fall was not as obvious as the fall. and the decline is something that we only see really in retrospect. the kind of thing historians find out later after the fact. for us as contemporaries while we have all kinds of information's of problems, i don't think the possibility of a very sudden fall is something we fully internalized and come to terms with. and yet the evidence is all
around us that things do collapse then gently collide. this is partly the way we think because we ourselves its individual human beings have a certain rise, a piece of powers and any decline and then ultimately we fall. and reading glasses set in, you know, this is how we are. but it's not how civilizations are. it's not, in fact, have big cities or empires or states are. these man-made edifices in fact grow in a completely different way from organic entities like individual human beings. they grow exponentially and then they reach a kind of peak, at the peak they are, in fact, surprisingly vulnerable and then they can fall very suddenly, very steeply rather than gently the client on that curve. so part of the point of the book is to change the way we think about change, and to make us
much more aware than i think we are instinctively of the potential suddenness of this integration or collapse. to make us realize that what happened in the soviet union, what happened in the financial system in 2007-2008, what is happening to the european union is the kind of thing that can happen to any complex of that system. it can malfunction. things that we perhaps expected take decades end up taking days. >> host: i'm about to veer off because you mention the soviet union. and i was there as a journalist between 1969-1972 in the brezhnev era. and certainly any journalist who tells you that they predicted the fall of the soviet empire is lying. no one did. we just thought it was going to go on forever. and yet you're talking about you see things only in retrospect, and yet it seems to me and not in retrospect when ever anyone
wrote anything for an american newspaper of out how, for example, soviet science and economy didn't work except for the military part of the economy, people didn't believe it, and neither did our editors because they would say what about sputnik and all that? out in fact you could easily say if you looked at the fact that the economy wasn't working then, and it never worked for consumers, but in some way the fall was inevitable the minute care was taken away which is different from what you're talking about because our western society is not held together by terror. >> guest: that's right. profound differences. i think will result in a financial crisis was the speed with which our system can malfunction. everybody in 2006 and right into early 2007 in the financial business thought that things were just going great. i even had an extraordinary
experience when a hedge fund manager that mean they would never be another recession in the united states. >> host: never? >> guest: i finally said never isn't a great timeframe for that. how about five years? of course he lost his money and i discovered the meaning of counterparty risk. wasn't entirely sure, i still wish to be paid i should say. this is really the way things are, that complex entities, whether you're talking about planned economy of the soviet union or the very dynamic financial system that rose in the western world over the last century or so. these things have a potential to break down very much more rapidly than i think we can to think. and as i was writing the book, this kept coming up to me. as the west was a syndicate which he did exponentially from around 1500, it kept encountering these other civilizations that were very
fragile and collapsed almost as soon as they came into contact with the west. think of the speed in which the inca empire or the aztecs simply implode. partly biological because european germs. internet be a very fragile system. in the same way as the western states expand eastwards, the great oriental empire did badly in competition with them. the british takeover of the whole of the subcontinent. and china remains independent as an empiricism, in practice, it is economically hollowed out. and ultimately it goes down in 1911, exactly a century ago. in that sense i think writing the book taught me an important lesson about the nature of the historical process, that we shouldn't think if history is cyclical. we shouldn't think of it as
gradual, seasonal or biological but we should rather think of it more in terms of complex, adaptive systems, the kind of things the study at the hoover institute. there are natural phenomenon's of behavior like this but it's very interesting to realize that civilizations are governed by similar laws, these complexes in the natural world. >> host: you mentioned in your book watching your own children grow up in england you had the uneasy feeling they were learning less history and you had learned at their age, and you write quote watching the financial crisis unfolds i realized that they were far from alone. for it seemed as if only a handful of people in the banks and treasures of the western world had more than the sketches information about the last great depression. would you expand on that a bit and give me some specific examples of what you're talking about? when it comes to the historical, these are people are supposed the world controllers. >> guest: i the kind of coding
system that i run every time i give a talk to an audience of people from the financial service industry, bankers are hedge fund manager shirt or private equity guys. i always make sure that some point in my talk i asked if they had read one of two books. the first book is milton friedman, monetary history of the states can probably the single most important financial history about the united states. and it contains an extraordinary brilliant chapter called the great contraction about the great depression in the u.s. the other book is golden feathers which is the international institute, that's the book that shows what a huge shock in united states spread right around the world. nearly always somebody has read one or other of these books. typically it's one person in a hundred. and that seems to me and and credible environment the way we educate people.
>> host: user financial people you're talking about, not just anyone but people, to give businesses money. >> guest: usually earning very large amounts of money from running or working for a major financial institutions. the level historically and financial sector is absolutely astonishing. what this means is that since most people who have entered the profession have never formally studied finest that the only history they know is the history of their own career. as i work on the average career direction of a wall street in 2007 was 25 years. you can figure out just how little they knew. all the experience was the 1980s and 1990s. these people hadn't even experience the 1970s, of course they hadn't experienced the '30s but they haven't even read about the 1930s. that's the really scary thing.
i begin to feel as if the only person in the whole country in a position of in response to to who would study the great depression was ben bernanke. the chairman of the federal reserve. likely get most of his academic research on that subject. >> host: every other isn't up to one slow pitch softball question. use yours. you talk about the six major apps ranging from competition to consumerism. the west started downloading in the 15 century and the east did not. describe them briefly, if you will, and we'll move on from there to what i see as a few problematic aspects. >> guest: that is a slow pitch a ball. let me reach for my baseball bat. the idea here was to try to explain the great convergence, the great descent of the west in terms, my children could relate to. and i wanted to try to tell this story in a way that would engage them.
so instead of talking about what i nearly did, which was complexes of ideas and institutions, institutions a terrible word to use to teenagers, i said there were kill apps, six killer applications the west devise that the rest didn't have. and these were competition. i don't talk about capitalism and the but because that's a term of abuse, like imperialism developed by the left. i talked quite carefully about competition both economic and political competition as an app. i talk about the scientific revolution of the 17th century witch transformed our understanding of the natural world. indeed, introduce scientific methodology as we understand it today. but then there's the rule of law which is more important than democracy. by democracy few disney holding universal election. turns out to be a powerful killer app especially is rolled
out in north america. medicine as an app although it is the opposite of the killer because what it does with the great breakthroughs of the 19th and early 20 century more than doubled life expectancy. think that the people in the west for time living twice as long as the rest of the world. the consumers is a pretty important one because without that there's no point have an industrial revolution. there's no point lowering the unit cost of an article of clothing. nobody wants a. nobody expects to own multiple shirts. as soon as society creates demand for product that's crucial. finally, the work ethic. that's extraordinaire thing, the spirit of capitalism. i would say there's something in there that is right, though he was wrong to identify specifically. so the story is essentially that these six things were time did not really exist anywhere else but in the west. that is, europe and the great cause of settlement in the new
world. they are the things that explain the great divergence that makes the average american 20 times richer than the average chinese by the 1970s. that's an argument very different from the kind of argument that says it's the weather, or its national character, or its geography. all of those arguments over time have been used to explain the great divergence. and, of course, want to just go was racial theory. but none of those arguments matter, can't explain. its institutions like killer apps that explain why the west got so much richer, healthier and more powerful than the rest of. >> host: one of the things i was thinking about when i was reading part of your book is the question of how much is too much. for instance, of course i agree with you about consumerism, but are we not also seeing evidence right now that it can be taken too far? during the past 20 years in
england and the u.s., and speaking of specifically, that consumerism we can't afford of buying and wanting what we can't pay for has become one of the deep structural problems within our economy. >> guest: of course, but the book has a second question after my first question. the first question is why did was become so much stronger than the rest of the second is is it over? the answer is yeah, probably it is over because in each of these six areas you can see signs of real weakness that i think were not there before. you hit on one of them. when they were talking about capitalism he partly meant of just hardware, productive work but also thrift. saving was part of the vapors idea of what made capitalism different because you are deferring consumption and achingly capital. we left all pepfar behind in the last two decades. we ended up in a situation in
which the savings rates in the states actually went below zero. said nothing at all was being saved from the current incumbent in order to finance growth, particularly in the last 10 our soldiers for the crisis, more and more households relied on death to finance purchases rather than on increases in income. so i think what we did with the we took the consumer society that we invented and we leveraged it to the hilt. we borrowed to the hilt and tell finally it broke down. now i think one reason that we see relatively sluggish growth in the u.s., the main reason is that consumers are shackled by the debts they incurred in the period prior to 2007. they just won't go away. it's hard to diminish the debt burden. and while people are focused on that, they're increasing if they can't their savings to pay off
debt, there's no chance of a rapid readout and there's no chance of a return to the consumer boom of the previous decade. >> host: right, of course, and also when you think, for instance, about the cost of a college education, and in the united states specifically, the enormous amount of debt ranging from 10 to $100,000, graduates of our best universities have when they get out, they start out already in debt for the things that they have done that is supposed to enable them to live a good life and join the good life. let's talk a little bit about religion century just talking about vapor. it's clear you consider christianity be one of the chief advantages the west has had over the rest. at least until the last 50 years or so because it's been linked so closely to the work ethic but as you point out as he failed to point out, but jews have been accused of a lot of things historic a, but never of being lazy, so obviously protestant
christianity to be a part of the work ethic is not, if not either necessary or sufficient it but i'd like to ask this is, you're a thinker and a historian but not a theologian. i don't think you would claim to be. but i've always wondered about this. how do you explain the connection first in scotland and northern europe and later in american to england from the 17th century on, between orthodox calvinism and the work ethic? because the major theme of orthodox calvinism in its heyday from the beginning was pre-destination. but absolutely nothing one does on earth can affect one's ultimate chances of obtaining salvation. i've always wondered how this correlates with works own sake. so just as a thinker, what is your three? >> guest: first of all i don't have skin in this game because i'm an atheist although i was
brought up in the calvinist part of the world. i think that atheism that i was taught at home was essentially a calvinist ethical framework without golf. so perhaps i shouldn't be quite so distanced from the subject. the point faber makes in the famous essay in which the way calvinists and other processes in opera is people, although your point is correct, although it was all predetermined to withstand and who is saved and whose intellect and who wasn't, in practice people in countless communities particularly were encouraged to behave in ways that so to speak at the ties their godliness to the neighbors. and so these behaviors hard work, cleanliness, were associated with a certain your
membership. and a rather subtle way. and if you go to geneva in heyday of calvinism, which account our communities of self-policing godly people whose business life and private life and religious life are intimately bound up in a network of mutual support. and i suppose also mutual policing. so that's the historians answer, that this was a kind of powerful network effect. in these communities prospered because of this. and especially when they're operating as minorities. and he we see the parallels with the jews become so compelling. you're quite right in what you say, that faber has this huge hole in his are your guys are go singh doesn't apply to the jews because the jews to do the right kind of work ethic. jewish form of cap was in which is somehow morally wrong. but rubbish.
what's interesting is protestant miners and jewish minorities and minorities generally seem to have had a powerful work ethic and also a powerful sense of trust within the community. which turns out to be an advantage if you're in financial services because how can -- [talking over each other] what we find is it's not specific to processes or judaism because you can also see chinese miners that operate in this way in asia and elsewhere. being a minority with a common set of beliefs issued a comparative advantage and a lot of economic activity because you have more trust than average, than the majority community around you. that's a powerful tool. the other part of the story which i think is for me more important is the protestant schism had one really powerful social implication. and that was literacy. we have to read scripture ourselves if it can't be
mediated i priest and can't be and let the gas bill in which we understand. and luther is the man to harness the power of the printing press, that new techno to come in and gym in the late 15th century and turned into an engine for disseminating a whole new way of educating people. and impact his dramatic because everywhere that protestantism comes its associate with a market increase in literacy. you see the printing press suddenly appearing in these being used first published at the bible and of an active but a bunch of other things besides. so my conclusion and the civilization is that it's not, it's not so much the work ethic with a k. it is the work ethic with a d. that is really important about protestantism. that, of course, is judaism which is another religion of the word. so i think that is a really, that's as good as answer as i can get to that question. i come from scotland which has a
curious history in this regard, and something that i alluded to in the book. if you had gone to scotland early in my story, say, in the late '60s, early 17th century when the calvinists were reading, taking control come and remember, i imagine was rather like tehran not long after the islamic revolution. it was a bureaucratic and tolerant, rather awful society to be a part of. over the levels of in tolerances of even having fun in any shape or form were amazingly high. this was the extreme case of puritanism, and yet in that same city, edinburg, within a century you had one of the greatest secular thinkings, delight meant, of all time. this is the city that produces adam smith and all his contemporaries. probably the greatest generation of intellectuals the west has ever seen.
so something extraordinary happened in scotland which i don't think historians have yet fully explained which got it from its theocratic and tolerant calvinist phase to its dazzling enlightenment, all in the space of 100, 150 years. >> host: my theory is they're all looking for consumerism, something better. so they had to develop whole set of economic and libertarian theories to -- of course are talking about enlightenment. you don't want to discuss. let's move to another somewhat nastier topic. one of the most fascinating chapters in your book to me was the chapter on medicine. and i was utterly enthralled by your discussion of the use in
colonial research, imperialist era of eugenics and eugenics, eugenics research ride a kind of perversion of the good, sort of the dark side of western medicine. he made one observation that i find curious what you see the scientifically uneducated embraced eugenics as enthusiastically as people today except that there at man-made global warming. but it was at the scientifically uneducated, i don't think, who accepted eugenics. in most instances it was the scientifically educated, highly educated people from england who have a lot more influence in american than he ever did in england. to our own margaret sanger, the champion of birth control. they considered eugenics as gospel, the absolute superiority of certain white northern races. doesn't this say something about one big weakness, retrospectively, but i think even at the time in the proud tower of early 20th century
western civilization, which is, and i think that this relates to what you say about today. the use of scientific sounding, pseudoscience, to prop up really irrational and unscientific beliefs. >> guest: the point i was trying to make there was just to remind people how mainstream and how widely accepted racial theories like eugenics were 100 just ago. and this is not some aberrant german phenomenon. it was deeply and well established in the english-speaking world, and it was as widely accepted as true and somehow progressive as climate changes today. that's not to say those theories of climate change are as wrong as the theory -- my point. the point is, i want to make people realize that they felt then as certain about racial theory as most people today feel
certain about climate change. that's my point. to get you into the mindset that you would feel as sure that we have a massive problem of racial degeneration, or whatever it is, as we feel today that we have a problem of man-made climate change. the point being that there is a very dark shadow side to western ascendancy. that's really a critical point, that not all readers or reviews of these rivers, maybe they were not readers, grass. the whole point of trying to make when he is a term like killer apps is there's an ambivalence to this story, that when the western packham although it's early capable of doing great good, the first part of the chapter you referring to i talk about french doctors in west africa generally improving life expectancy not only for europeans but for africans in west africa, conquering orderlies partially conquering the diseases that may the tropics the dangers. that same scientific currents of
the late 19th and early 20 century, the ones that produced the breakthroughs in bacteriology also into producing the pseudoscience of eugenics. and for many people, particularly for laypeople, nonscientists, it was impossible to tell which science was good and which was bad. you could be as sure that the cure for tolerant have been found as you are sure that the jews were the racial tuberculosis of the aryan race. crazy to us now, but at the time when it are just ago, that kind of very good at the same respectively in the same status as the work on the causes of cholera. that's the point. >> host: i like to know also if you think, if you think that secularism has played any role in eroding the work ethic. i personally don't see a correlation because some of the most religious countries in the world come in latin america in the middle east, for instance, are also among the poorest, whereas in china and japan the
rate of belief in god is even lower than in secular europe. >> guest: i think -- in many parts of the christian world, and particular in europe, there's been a correlation decline in work measured in all kinds of different ways but it's a working out a year, and a more or less simultaneous decline in religious belief and observance. and the first time i started thinking to write about this i nearly pointed this correlation of have ironically to say well, perhaps max was right after all and that there really was a link between religion and the spirit of capitalism. now, this was ironic, i think more than half ironic because it doesn't apply in the united states. therefore most theories about
what has caused the decline of christianity in europe tends to break down because whatever we attributed to, let's say the sexual revolution or materialism, or you name it, all these things happen in north america, to come and so it's hard to explain the divergence. why is it that europe has become so much more secular than the united states? when all the same modernization process, all the exposures that i discuss in that chapter have occurred on both sides of the atlantic. and i think the best explanation for this alludes back to an earlier point in the book, the competition that goes on in the united states between different religious denominations is as intense as the competition that goes on in the united states in any economic sector. you only have to travel in the bible belt to get a sense of how hard these different evangelical
compete for market share. they have to fill these big churches, otherwise the church goes bust, as simple as that. nothing like that exists broadly speaking were -- just like all state monopolies, the established churches of protestant europe have essentially declined, if not fallen off a cliff, since the 1960s or thereabouts. the most lively religious scene you will get an summerlike britain is, in fact, imported evangelical sets which are much whether at getting people into church on a sunday or any other day of the week. >> host: it's interesting. one thing is true here though that right wing evangelical christianity has made its biggest gains in the least educated areas of the country. they are competing for a market share in the states which have the lowest number of high school graduates, the lowest portion of college graduates which is interesting, but this is your interview. one of the things i like most
about your book was it's a catalog of inventions of scientific advances, great and small. you have a truly staggering timeline of important inventions and scientific ideas of the 17th century beginning with a telescope and 1608 and ending in 1669 with the publication of gravitation. what really stunned me was your excerpt from robert hooks like rafael chide never read. and which referred to telescopes and microscopes. i'd like to read it for the television audience because it's so amazing. no one has used this in a book that deals with other things as you have. as a first mankind fell by tasting of the bidden tree of knowledge, so we are prosperity may in part be restored by the same way. not only by the holding and contemplating, but by tasting to those fruits of natural knowledge that we were
forbidden. from hence the world maybe a system with systems new meta- for scientist to be collected, the old improved and the rest rubbed away. this is just an astounding statement. and one which preachers of truly orthodox religion, including orthodox. >> translator: must have regard with absolute horror tragic what's exciting about the scientific revolution, remember you're talking to southern and the brother of the -- what's exciting about it is this sense that you get in that passage. that they know what a revolution they are creating. that they know the power of the new knowledge and a new methods that were being pioneered like the royal society. and they know that the world will never look the same again once they are done. and this to me was one of the most exciting chapters to write. how do you get from -- to get
from what luther is saying to, you know, a century or century and a half later what people are saying, he's an amazing -- >> host: one and 50 years, that's all? >> guest: you go from printing the bible and the sermons to printing these extraordinary and revolutionary texts of the natural world. 17th century scientific revolution happened in a very confined space. the network is essentially western europe. not all of it. it's kind of a hexagon shape, draw around a part of europe that embraces central scotland, you come down to the pyrenees, you include northern italy, come up the german border, parts of scandinavia get it all happened within this hexagon. and within that space in an amazing short period of time we have the great breakthroughs about everything from the movement of the planets down to the circulation of human blood. and then further down with hook
and as microscopic into the realm up until that point in literally invisible as human beings. because this only happened in the west, it didn't have anywhere else, despite would've been achieved by islam association and by chinese before that, because they completely left behind the west -- >> host: they cut themselves off. >> guest: considerable scientific legacy from, the ballot printing and the systematic exclusion of scientific ideas has eternal consequence. i mean, if you had to see which of your six killer apps is the most important i would probably come down to number two because i think the scientific resolution just transformed what western human beings can do. about every aspect of life. they suddenly have a new intellectual tool, and it's not just the way that these men think about the natural world. it's the way that they perform
experiments, new methods pioneered by galileo and his successors, systematic repetitive systematization to falsify hypothecate and get a share that knowledge. it's that networking that is so crucial. it's not like trying to find a secret way, of turning -- and keep it secret. what the scientific revolution encourages is the culture of publication, including the knowledge. the race is on to be first, but first to publish. that in itself is i think a revolutionary idea. >> host: hugest cashion mentioned all of this from the third wasn't exactly the most enlightened fellow in the world, or the most open to evidence to hooke who is saying this astonishing thing which is the only way, the way would weaken accede original sin is to taste more of the fruit. but to return to the segment of
ignorance, you said 150 years, don't you think one of the big players in ignorance in western europe, at least england and the united states is the abandonment of history as chronology correct you know took 150 years. you have to know it took place in 150 years to know how amazing it was. as you yourself have pointed out in your little factoids that something like only a third of graduates of a leading british university know who is the monarch at the time of the spanish armada, if you don't have any timeline in your head, how can you think about anything properly? >> guest: i think this book is part to challenge the ways in which we are taught on both sides of the atlantic, and to make a plea to restore chronological frameworks to the way that we teach. i think this is a bigger problem in the u.k. than in the u.s. in the u.k. has been a break
with a great suite, whereas most american kids are still given a sweep of american history and a sweep of western or world history. i'm not sure how far they will observe -- absorbed this. were as you study history and the british school and she leapfrogged hitler to henry viii to martin luther king, jr., and that's it. you're done. so you have no sense in the order in which things happened. the our host entries about which you literally see roe. that's something that scares me because it didn't seem to me that having a sense of time, knowing where we are located in the continuum of 4000 years in the history of civilization is important. the most important historical phenomena are unintelligent if they are studied and remembered in the wrong order. you have to know which order these things happened in. i frequently say as i'm talking to a young audience, tell me which order these things happened in. the renaissance, the
reformation, scientific revolution, the enlightenment, french revolution, the industrial revolution, the first world war. i have just done them in the right order, but if you jumble them up and presented the average western teenager, with those things, a tiny percentage would be able to put them in the right order. because that is not the way we teach. and, of course, if you don't know the order these things happen and you don't see the causal connections between them. that's really a big part of what it's about, it's about exploring causations. it's a narrative in the sense that i do tell the story pretty much start in 1411, six images ago, coming down to yesterday, as near as i could get. and it is arranged in chronological order but it is trying to make some statements about causation, about the order in which they happen. i think we need to know that. >> host: i'm not sure i agree with you by the way about u.k.
being worse than the united states. a third of our high school graduates place of the civil war in 20th century. now, how can you know anything, for instance, about race if you think that the civil war took place in the 20th century? >> guest: i think the survey data to show there is paid big problem, not as big a problem in the u.k. so it's something that we should all be concerned about. in the english world. the other part is i think there's been a kind of, a narrative imposed in some classrooms by some teachers which isn't especially helpful. and that narrative is century says the west grew to be dominant because it was entirely wicked. and we should study the story of its wickedness. from as it were slavery on, if not from earlier actually of wickedness. and the notion that the
explanation for the great divergence is in realism, its empire, and its exports of character, which is very practice. is i think a very distorted reading of history. so when i talk about the shadow side, that only makes sense because i'm only talking about -- history has to both and i do worry about accounts of the past which are almost exclusively concerned with the mystics of western empires. the least original thing, the europeans did was and there. everybody get empire. one can't attribute too much it seems to me to in realism since it was essentially continuing what they have done for centuries. >> host: it seems to me it can be recently inferred from your book wickedness can only be understood chronologically. >> guest: and it certainly can be seen as the monopoly of western empires. they're all kinds of dreadful
things being done by non-western empires at the time that the europeans showed a. i don't think i would have enjoyed living under as to grow if i had that option open to make. >> host: not at all. your head might've been the cornerstone of a temple. >> guest: with my luck, yeah. this is an extreme important point. we all need a narrative. we all need a storyline. i think there's an agreement on the. particularly when we're learning history for the first time. part of what i'm trying to is get a bastard in which we understand it is the biggest star in history after 1500 to get something that needs explaining. it can't be explained exclusively in terms of slavery and exportation, those things are part of the story but they're probably not the best explanation for it. i don't think one can explain terribly much in terms of western descent in terms of the enslavement of africa. a terrible phenomenon though that was it is unlikely that it
had as big an impact on western ascendancy as the revolution or for that matter scientific revolution. >> host: one reviewer made the point that in your book you almost completely ignored the rise of the common market in the european union in 20th century european postwar history. why did you do that? or did you simply consider it irrelevant to the larger issue of where our civilization is headed now? >> guest: it's something i've written about in the past. in fact, if you go back to 2001, a book called the cash nexus which has an entire chapter on immigration in which i wrote -- >> host: i thought that happen in 1901. >> guest: it did not really begin until the 1950s. and its culmination with a monetary union which was devised in the late 1990s, and i use the word of culmination deliberately.
when i wrote about in the cached data, my point is this, the monetary union is a step too far in the system, monetary union without any fiscal federalism will break down after about 10 years. and, indeed, it has. we are witnessing not only the process -- which been going on practically since the creation of the euro. the euro was a terrible mistake. extremely difficult to i make that mistake, but people are interested in my thoughts on this subject need to go back to cash nexus. in the great scheme of western ascendancy i think the story of european immigration rates at most, it's not a big story of post 45. the big story of post with what is the polarization of the world. it's two models of western civilization. the ones we think of us countless and alternative one has been devised by karl marx and engels and their successors
and imitators, which established itself in moscow. that's the big story of europe post-1945. and i tell that story using a very nice image. and that's the image of blue jeans. and ask a question which i think is a good question. why was it that the soviet system couldn't make bluejeans? overalls that were developed and the the nazis but incredible example to me. it was a sign of the failure of that system to be able to manage a consumer society or even produced a consumer society that it couldn't even make jeans. >> host: it couldn't, and couldn't repair apartment buildings. i guess one of the things that makes one feel we're entering an end time scenario, and as you put it, is the breakdown of a lot of kinds of services which have always been taken for granted in western countries. this is something one can see even in one's own lifetime, that the level of service, and i service i would mean the repair
and upkeep of everything that makes the western standard of living good has degenerated enormously in the last 40 years. >> hostyears. >> guest: at the same time, and a sense of leaving much of the traditional infrastructure by the wayside. i mean, i think it's important to recognize before one gets carried away with conditions of the collapse of the west that there are certain things that still are being done uniquely well in the west. i mean here, very west, as in silicon valley. if there's one thing that seems to illustrate the power of the killer apps today, it's the extraordinary way in which that part of the west, the western most part, remains the cutting edge of innovation. it's a combination of competition and science, and actually a system that protects intellectual property rights pretty well. at all of those things in mind
that produces the extraordinary transformation of communication that is perhaps the biggest story of the last 20 years. >> host: don't you think that there is another side to that? one being, i mean, it's a wonderful thing, but the idea that you can just go and pluck out a factoid, which you can very easily now with all of the digital tools we have, but not really know anything about anything about what lies, about what lies behind the. >> guest: the problem we have is weekend -- this vast data jump that happens every single day is at once and opportunity but a massive challenge. our partners, our brains are not that different.
my worry, particularly the other generation who are growing up in this environment of mass destruction with constant bombardment, constantin occasion, cannot read war and peace. reading war and peace, which i did twice as a teenager changed my life. and i keep asking my kids and my students, do you have the concentration power to read war and peace, or will you just not be able to because of the sms messages, the e-mails and the facebook page and the tweets and the alerts that are causally bombarding you? since civilization is transmitted by the book more than any other mechanism, it is that which transmit the learned a committed wisdom of one generation to the next year maybe the big danger is that our king occasions revolution, our ability to communicate is better
than before, have somehow damage our capacity for long substandard works, like tolstoy's. that's a great concern of mine. towards the end of the book i say what should our core and be? we should take at least a few texts and privilege them. what should they be? what are the essential books we want everybody to have read? i find myself rather despairing that this project will ever be fulfilled, we will ever get to the point when we regard somebody has a red war and peace. it's incompetent to hold high office or somebody does know the works of shakespeare is qualified from presidential election year coming, we won't get to the point that the decline of our ability to engage in long reeds, long reads, big books is a worry. >> host: and also the fact
that there is all this information, but information and knowledge are two different things, and not all of the unfiltered information in the world enables people to think about well, what's important and what isn't. >> guest: its interpretation and understanding requires to be left out, i quote early on in the book who said in jazz it's not the notes you play, it's the notes you don't play. i may hope readers of "civilization," a short but i think considering 600 years, readers will enjoy things like the notes i don't play, the things that are not their. >> host: you conclude with a statement we're our own worst enemy, that if we do go the way of world will be because of our own selflessness, the acres of her own institutions and history, kind of a reverse twist on an old 1960s statement, we are the people our parents warned us against. if that's true, and one looks at the 2012 presidential campaign so far in the united states, who
could deny it in which ignorance is so far been paraded as a great virtue, what would have to happen to make us address her own decision -- deficiencies instead of seeing immigration or a class of civilizations as the main problem and our wonderful cells as bearing no responsibly at all? >> guest: this requires a special kind of leadership, leadership which is a very rare thing, the kind that churchill himself -- churchill is an interesting figure for a friday of reasons, but the most important thing, one historical knowledge is the man, and a readiness to tell people unpopular things that they didn't want to hear, and paid the political price for that as he did in the 1930s in his wilderness years. that kind of leadership is in pretty short supply on both sides of the atlantic right now. we have to find that kind of
position to because what we'll have to do in the next, not 100 years, but the next 10 years is engage in reform of the way western civilization works, right across the border you mentioned education. with a massive problem in our system of public education in the united states. it is not delivering the people in poor neighborhoods. that has got to be addressed. i think the only way to bring that leadership to the floor, to make people more aware of where, shatter the complacency that said neal, relies, in the future everything will be designed in california but assembled in china. i say no, that is not the future you will get. transition from the west to the rest is happening very fast in real time and it represents challenge is not to your grandchildren, but to you today if we don't act, we are complacent your we are going to pay a much heavier price than traditional theories of graduate
decline. >> host: if you were a betting man, i recognize in the last chapter of your book something editors have said to me is can't you put something optimistic in there for people to take away? but if you were a betting man, how are things going to go? are we going to continue this decline you have chronicled, or are we going to wake up? is it not perhaps a little too late already, especially in educational terms? >> guest: the united states always does the right thing with all the alternatives been exhausted. that's my optimistic note. this is a country which likes a crisis, likes to bring things to a really serious have and then get it right. i feel we are still somewhere through the process, not quite at the end of it, but i think at the end of it we will get it right. i can't say the same for europe which is one reason i am here. >> host: but as you yourself
note in your book, if the barbarians are at the gates already too late, one thing you don't mention this, obviously you finished this book long before the political silly season started, but the focus of trying to make people think that the problem is without, whether without in terms of immigrants or overrunning our borders or without in terms of alien influences like radical islam, isn't simply saying the problem is is, an act of political leadership which hasn't occurred? >> guest: that needy, the barbarians are uzbek is our own uneducated, our own dysfunctional families but it's our own deprived underclass that we need to worry about. we can't blame the rest for catching up. good luck to them. and we can't blame immigrants
who want to come in and get away from the failed institutions in their own countries. but what we can do is blame ourselves for failing a generation. but i do think generational politics will matter more in the years to come. the moment the young generation doesn't quite know what's going to hit it, it ends up having to pay for the indulgences of the baby boomers with much higher lifetime taxation rates than baby boomers had to pay. and i think the other generation has been filled not only in terms of these unfunded liabilities that are going, like a mountain on top of them, but also in terms of the pretty poor education that most of them have been given. the elite has prospered under our institutions. >> host: thank you very much. i think anyone who reads this book will realize it also has in addition to having chronological argument, it has a discursive quality and i now know what pendergrass is an a going to tell. thank you.
>> that was "after words" kabookie signature program in which authors and latest nonfiction books are edited by charles, public policy, legislators and others familiar with the material. "after words" airs every weekend on book tv at 10 p.m. on saturday, 12 and 9 p.m. on sunday, and 12 a.m. on monday. you can also watch "after words" online, go to booktv.org and click on "after words" in the book tv series and topics less on the upper right side of the page. >> well, here's a book with an unusual title, but it's also part of a series. "obama on the couch" has been written by justin frank, m.d., who also wrote "bush on the couch." dr. frank, first of all, what kind of doctor are used because i'm a psychoanalyst and a psychiatrist, professor of psychiatry at gw. medical school. >> how do you get inside the mind of the presidents?
>> it's a technique called applied psychoanalysis we take psychoanalytical principles and untried and a psychoanalyst, and apply them to people you can never get in your consulting room. so for instance, freud did that. use the first one to do that with people like leonardo da vinci, and even moses. then fdr hired somebody to do that with hitler during world war ii. and it's a very well-established technique to study famous people by using analytic principles. and obama wrote two autobiographies so that made it very interesting to see what he put in, what he left out, and then how it relates to his behavior as president. >> what is one thing we're going to learn about president obama in your book's? >> he is deeply obsessed with uniting the country because he came from a broken home. he's half black and half white, and he wants to heal his inside. that's why he became a community organizer after harvard law school when he could've written his own ticket in a high-powered law firm.
but he really believes in bringing people together. that's the biggest struggle he has because the irony is we are more divided than ever in a lot of ways in this country, and when he gave his speech in 2004 about red states and blue states, against the united states, he would be believes that. so eventually you start negotiating with himself to the point where i called him be accommodated in chief. that's what the book is about, why he does that, what it's about and how there's an a credible difference between him as president and hit as candidate. >> okay. your first book, "bush on the couch," with one thing we learned about president george w. bush? >> we learned about bush a couple things was he really was very much a person had once been an alcoholic, was what's called a dry drunk but those are people who are impulsive and are suddenly given to blaming other people, and one of the things about him that was